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Enhance your effectiveness as a civic leader in the Commonwealth.

Sorensen's flagship leadership development program is for seasoned professionals in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors who live or work in Virginia and are already engaged in the political, civic, business, nonprofit or governing life of their locality, region or the Commonwealth. PLP attendees are able to

  • Participate more effectively in civic life or public service
  • Have a greater impact on public policy in the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Work with people across the partisan aisle or from different regions of the Commonwealth
  • Better understand the interplay between their current positions and politics and government in Virginia
  • Build up a network of professional relationships within the cohort, with guest speakers, and among Sorensen Institute alumni

Program Details

Themes & Curriculum

Effective leadership – through building trust and working together – is a central theme of the program. We explore how leaders have gained positions of trust and shaped public policy in Virginia. We also look at how bipartisan and regional cooperation can be used to craft approaches and solutions to problems, opportunities, and challenges faced by Virginia residents. Finally, we review techniques for finding common ground in addressing potentially divisive topics and challenging conversations.

The curriculum is focused on several core subject areas, including:

Public Policy - Presentations and discussions regarding a variety of public policy issues facing Virginia and its localities, including but not limited to the state budget, transportation, education, healthcare, workforce and economic development, public safety, housing, energy, and the environment. We also cover innovation, funding priorities, reform efforts, and the changing nature of Virginia’s electorate.

Influencers in the Political and Governing Process -  Cohort members will engage with current and former elected officials, appointed officials, boards and commission members, lobbyists and advocates, regional and subject matter experts, and business and nonprofit leaders.

Experiential Learning – By engaging in hands-on experiences and reflection, leaders can better connect theory to real-world situations. Sorensen's experiential learning activities foster a deeper understanding of the different regions and cultures within Virginia. Each year’s program experience is unique and includes tours and site visits in regions across the Commonwealth, plus engagement with businesses, academic centers, landmarks, cultural centers, and both public and private venues.

Ethics in Public Service and Civic Life - The program will include a study of general ethical principles as they relate to public service and civic life. The development of skills and practical application of bipartisan cooperation in politics, government, and civic life is also a central theme throughout the program.

General Program Schedule

Program participants meet in various locations throughout Virginia on one weekend a month from March through December, except for the month of July. Some sessions meet for three days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) and some sessions meet for two days (Friday, Saturday). We ask that you confirm your availability before you apply. 

With few exceptions, the following is a typical weekend schedule:

  • Thursday: begins around 12:00 p.m. with an optional lunch, followed by a tour, dinner, and guest speaker.
  • Friday: begins around 8:30 a.m. with a full day of programming, activities, speakers, and a late-afternoon break. Adjourns after a dinner speaker, around 9:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: begins around 8:30 a.m. and usually includes class discussions, speakers, and panels in the morning; ends by 1:30 p.m.
Anticipated 2024 Schedule & Attendance Policy

We ask that you confirm your availability for the sessions below before you apply to the program. Any applicants who cannot commit fully to the two mandatory sessions should wait to apply in another year.

  • Williamsburg Opening Weekend: March 14, 15, 16 (full attendance is mandatory)
  • Richmond: April 11, 12, 13
  • Roanoke: May 17, 18
  • Danville and Martinsville: June 20, 21, 22
  • No meeting in July
  • Harrisonburg: August 9, 10
  • Southwest Virginia: September 11^, 12, 13, 14 (No official sessions take place on Wednesday but hotel rooms will be provided on Wednesday night.)
  • Norfolk: October 17, 18, 19 (attendance on October 18 is mandatory)
  • Alexandria: November 15, 16
  • Charlottesville: December 13, 14 (includes graduation ceremony)
Tuition & Aid

Program Fee

The program fee to participate in the PLP 2024 cohort is $5,900, which includes a private room for each weekend. Payment of the program fee for PLP 2024 participants will be due in full by January 22, 2024. Participants can also opt into a payment plan as a form of financial assistance.

Financial Aid

The Sorensen Institute has a limited amount of financial aid available for its programs. We note that many employers have been willing to pay for their employees to participate in Sorensen Institute programs. Requests for financial aid should be submitted with the program application. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but meals, lodging, and program materials are covered by the tuition.

More information about the available payment plan and how to apply for financial aid can be found on the Financial Aid page.

According to IRS guidance, the Lifetime Learning tax credit applies to students who are enrolled in one or more courses at an eligible educational institution. The course or courses must be either part of a postsecondary degree program or taken by the student to acquire or improve job skills. There are many other details surrounding the Hope and Lifetime Learning Tax Credits. We suggest that you contact your own tax professional to see if you qualify for these credits. Unfortunately, neither the Sorensen Political Institute nor the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service can provide tax advice. You can also contact the IRS' Office of Public Liaison at 202-622-2970 or view Publication 970 on the IRS website for further information.

How to Apply

Application Timeline
  • September – mid November: Applications accepted for next year's class
  • November – December: Interviews of applicants, selection of class participants
  • January – February: Acceptance packets distributed, forms and payments due
  • March – December: Class meets one weekend each month except for July
How Applicants Are Selected

The application process is open to individuals who live or work in Virginia. Preference is given to people who have 10+ years of career experience and who are actively involved in the civic life of the Commonwealth or its communities through work in the public, private or nonprofit sector.

Approximately 36 participants are selected each year in a highly competitive selection process that includes a detailed essay-based application and interviews by staff members, Sorensen alumni, and/or regional leaders. The Sorensen Institute typically receives more than three times as many applications for the Political Leaders Program each year as there are available spaces.

A key goal of the selection process is to enable the Sorensen Institute to build program cohorts that reflect Virginia's diversity—including race, ethnicity, gender, region, and employment in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. We seek a balance between Republicans and Democrats in each cohort, in addition to participants who have other party or no party affiliations. This balanced cohort composition is important to the effectiveness of the program and influences our selection process.

If you would like to refer someone to our Political Leaders Program, please visit our referrals page.

Application Requirements

Applying to the Political Leaders Program involves the following:

  • Completing an online application which includes:
    • short essay questions
    • background/contact information
  • Submitting optional (but strongly encouraged) supplemental information by email (do not mail) to
    • your resume
    • up to two letters of recommendation (no more than 2 will be reviewed) 

Please view our financial aid page for assistance in paying for the program.

Application Deadlines

Applications Open:

September 13, 2023

Applications Close:

November 13, 2023

Financial aid completed by:

November 17, 2023

Supplemental materials submitted electronically by:

November 17, 2023

Application Short Essay Questions
  1. What role should civil discourse, dialogue, and respect for others unlike oneself have in our polarized politics? Do these notions have value in themselves? Should they play a role in elections? Do they have value in the effort to achieve policy goals? Explain.
  2. Describe a time when you had to work with someone or a group of people who disagreed with you and with whom you had to build consensus or a compromise.  How did you do that?  What was the result of your efforts?  What did you learn from the process?
  3. What achievement, experience or pursuit in your life makes you most proud? What has been your most satisfying leadership achievement so far? What barrier(s), if any, have you encountered in achieving your goals? Explain.
  4. What does state or local government in Virginia do well? What would you like to change about government in Virginia?
  5. Have you ever run for political office?  Is it your goal to become an elected and/or appointed public official? If so, what sort of office would you pursue, and why? If not, what role do you see for yourself in the political and/or civic life of Virginia or your local community?
  6. What specific skills, knowledge or resources do you hope to acquire as a result of participating in the Sorensen Institute Political Leaders Program?
  7. Each class is selected to bring together unique individuals who care about politics and policy in Virginia.  If you were to be selected, what unique attribute, experience, or perspective do you feel you would contribute to the cohort?
Application Contact and Background Information

You should also be prepared with the following information to successfully complete the PLP application:

  • How you learned about the Sorensen Institute
  • Current employment: employer, your title, your supervisor, work address and phone number
  • Education: high school, college, graduate school, and any relevant non-degree training programs
  • Past Employment: list past employers including your title, supervisor, and dates of employment
  • Activities: list organizations and activities that you have been involved in that demonstrate your commitment to public service, community involvement, and/or volunteer work.
  • Contact information: your current mailing address, home phone, work phone, cell phone, and email address 
  • Two references

Ready to apply?

Apply to PLP today.